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Learning to Write Faster By Joyce Lavene

I was thrilled to meet Joyce Lavene on Twitter for two reasons. First, I had read some of the books she wrote with her husband, Jim, and I was a fan. Second, I was curious about their writing process since I have written with my husband, too. I’ll bet you’re curious, too—how do two people write together? I wrote my take on writing together at Joyce’s blog a week ago. Today, I’m delighted to welcome Joyce to my blog to talk about how she and her husband have been able to write more than 60 books together. (Wow!) And don’t forget to enter the contest—you could win a copy of their brand new holiday mystery, Treacherous Toys .

Learning to Write Faster by Joyce Lavene

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” —Douglas Adams

Doug and I agree on loving deadlines—not that any writer who wants to stay published could let his or her deadlines go whooshing by very often! Deadlines are the push I need to get started. They help me focus and know what I have to do each day. They are also my reason for learning to write faster.

There was a time when I had to make up deadlines because I knew no one in particular was waiting to see what I was writing. I don’t have that problem anymore. Now I know my deadlines are real, and I have plenty of them. I have book contracts on my work stretching to 2016. It’s a good feeling!

Coincidence? I don’t think so.

When my husband, Jim, and I started writing together in the mid-1990s, we read everything we could about writing and publishing. We had always been avid fiction readers and have a large library that commands a place of honor in our house. We knew there was more to professional writing than enjoying a good book.

Our writing process is that we come up with an idea and characters in a synopsis form. We flesh that out until we both understand what we’re planning to write. You can’t write by the seat of your pants with another person. Both of you have to know what’s going on.

Once we sit down to write, we can have a rough draft of a book done in a month. Remember—I said ROUGH! We edit after the storyline is finished. We still talk out the story as we type it into the computer. That was the way we learned we could write books together. It works for us!

To me, knowing what you want to do is the first key to writing good stories, fast. Know where you want to go, even if you’re not completely sure how you’re going to get there. Know your characters and your setting like you know your face in the mirror.

Then tell your story. Get the whole thing out without worrying about spelling, fact-checking, etc. You can always do that once the story is finished. Too many writers get caught up in the research for a story. Research is good, but not if it excludes writing the story.

I believe we are all storytellers first. I don’t know about anyone else, but until that rough draft comes out of my head, it’s like being possessed. I want it out of me, and in the computer, as quickly as possible. That’s probably another secret to writing stories quickly. I can’t even imagine writing one story for years at a time. It would drive me crazy!

Writers waste too much of their creative time worrying about everything else except the story. That’s what revision is for! Once that story is told, you can revise. Look up facts and figures. Make sure everything is realistic. Check spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

For me, the story is everything.

Writing this way also makes you faster. So many writers I know have to go back each day and correct what they’ve written the previous day, adding and subtracting. Every word has to be perfect. Many get lost in looking for this perfection and they forget the story, or can’t write it at all.

Writers can get lost in the rules, too. We don’t think about the rules when we write a rough draft. We worry about those things later.

We never write more than one rough draft at a time. We write rough text in the morning, and work on revisions in the afternoon. I don’t like the idea of getting my characters mixed up. Once the rough draft is done on a story, it’s different. The story is past tense.

If you want to write more quickly, try to find ways that work for you. Try timing yourself for fifteen minutes and see how much you can write during that time. No correcting or second guessing here. You can revise later. An exercise like this can help increase your speed.

Sometimes, authors who write slowly criticize authors who write quickly, as people criticized Monet for being able to paint quickly. The truth is that, as writers and artists, we’re all different. Some of us write fast. Some of us write slowly. It doesn’t diminish us either way. There are just different ways of doing things.


About the author. Joyce and Jim Lavene write bestselling mysteries together. They have written and published more than 60 novels for Harlequin, Berkley and Charter Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family, their cat, Quincy, and their rescue dog, Rudi. Visit them online at:


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5 Responses

  1. I love Joyce and Jim’s books–especially the ones set in Duck, NC. As a writer, I can appreciate everything she says in this article. I have co-authored a couple of children’s book manuscripts with a writer friend. It is not an easy task, but it was a lot of fun. We talked out the story weeks before we ever put a word in the computer. We drew maps of our imaginary town, made character sketches of each of our characters and brainstormed all sorts of scenarios. When we finally opened the laptop and started typing, the stories flowed. In less than three months we completed two middle grade novels. One of them won the a national award! Joyce is so right…getting the story down is paramount to writing fast. It prevents getting bogged down with the details and keeps the writing fresh. There is plenty of time for revision later. By following this method writers will be much more productive and, as the old saying goes, time is money!

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